Connacht coach Andy Friend is hopeful of Bundee Aki committing his future at the Sportsground as he continues to build his squad.
Aki is out of contract at the end of the season, having signed a three-year deal just weeks before Pat Lam announced his departure to Bristol.
The Irish centre took to social media to vent his anger with Lam’s decision and Friend, having this week signed up captain Jarrad Butler for another two years among a number of contract extensions, is keen to hang on to him.
“That would be nice too. We’re in talks about recruitment but for me it’s a lot about retention, making sure you are keeping the right people,” said Friend.
“We have got a really healthy group of players there. It’s really important we lock down the main ones who have got us to where we are and we view them of being a very important part of where we want to build to.”
Aki is set to make his return to Connacht tomorrow night against Leinster and Friend said he had dealt with his World Cup red card well.
“He was fine. From all reports, he was brilliant for that Irish group after he got the red card and wasn’t able to play for the rest of it. He is very much a team man. He puts team first and eh is now back with us and I know he will do the same. I have no doubt that any player that hasn’t now got a World Cup gold medal hanging around their neck there will be fire in their belly.”
Friend does not think Saracens’ plight this week is going to have any impact on the situation of scrum-half Kieran Marmion, who has been linked with a move there.
“I don’t believe so. Kieran is very aware that we would like him to stay. At the end of the day he’ll make a decision on that but what we are really pleased with is firstly the announcement of Jarrad. He is our incumbent skipper, he is a great character to be around the group and I think a fantastic player who really adds strength to our playing depths.
“It’s vital to get clarity around the club and probably more importantly for the player. They are big decisions that weight on a player’s mind. You often see it that a player announces a signing and all of a sudden they start playing good rugby again because that weight’s taken off their shoulders.
“For us it would be really important to try and continue to lock down some of those players and hopefully there is better announcements to come,” added Friend.
Connacht’s injury problems have increased with confirmation that lock Gavin Thornbury is out until January with an elbow injury, while his second row partner Quinn Roux faces another few weeks on the sidelines.
“Gavin has just had surgery on that elbow so we are probably looking at into the New Year for him coming back. Yeah, it’s a massive blow. Quinn will probably looking at hopefully two or three weeks with his pec.
“We have already used 35 players in our opening five games. I think there is a belief and a view that Connacht are just swimming through these first five games.
We used 50 players last year,” added Friend.